Terrified and Delighted

April 15, 2017

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Preached by The Rt Rev’d Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester using Matthew 28:1-10 at the First Eucharist of Easter Eve on Saturday 15th April 2017.

the women scurried off quickly, away from the tomb, in a mixture of terror and great delight (v.8)

  1. I wonder how many of you have experienced the supernatural? One survey has found 80% of us believe in the supernatural and 65% of us say we’ve experienced it.
  2. The women and soldiers had just encountered what today we call the supernatural. There was a strange earthquake, the tombstone had miraculously rolled away, and an angel had appeared and sat on it. The angel then shocked them by talking with them. The soldiers guarding the tomb were in meltdown, but the women left quickly, feeling both terrified and totally overjoyed. This strange combination is a clue that something deeper is going on. Later this becomes clear.
  3. The Easter event is surrounded by what our popular culture calls supernatural events. Matthew records a number of these strange happenings. Yet in our scientific culture we often confine the supernatural to private experiences, or make it part of entertainment, like horror or fantasy films.
  4. In other cultures what we call the supernatural is more like the extra-natural: it’s just part of life. So what the women and soldiers had experienced was just the extra-natural realm. Yet what the women were about to experience was the real supernatural – the risen Lord Jesus himself.
  5. Rowan Williams says, ‘The resurrection is neither an optional extra nor a happy ending, it is the inescapable bursting through of the essential reality of who and what Jesus is.’ (God with Us p.46)
  6. So the real supernatural encounter the women had was with the risen Lord. They met Jesus in his glory and his humanity – in his glorious divinity in which he is also divinely close. They saw him, heard him, touched him and worshiped him. They were still both terrified and utterly delighted. That’s what happens when you meet the real supernatural – we’re fearful but also totally overjoyed. We know we need God’s forgiveness and we also know he’s our greatest joy.
  7. Meeting with Jesus shows you what you’re truly like: you are made to live for God and you realize that you’ve not done that. It’s a bit scary to discover how deep our rebellion is, each of us. Yet what’s wonderful is to discover who we really are: our nature is for relating to God’s super-nature. Relating to God makes sense of our lives and God’s reality gives meaning to everything.
  8. Christianity is primarily about the super-natural. It is about who God is: his amazing reality that is super to our natural world. We are made to relate with God so he is also supernaturally close. We are made for God. We are made in the image of God. We are made to be like Jesus.
  9. Jesus told the women to tell others about him, promising to meet them in Galilee … or Andover, Southampton, Bournemouth, Lymington, or Winchester. It’s the same Jesus who meets us today. This is God with us, not in a spooky unnatural way, but in a wonderful supernatural way that enriches and shapes our lives.
  10. To be confirmed is to say, “Lord, I want to know you even more. I want to be like you. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I can live for you and serve others in my daily life. Please forgive me my sins, and may I know how I can serve you best every day.” Amen.